IATE Term of the Week: Plastic Food Packaging


Can you imagine how much 150 million tonnes are? The higher the numbers get the harder it becomes to grasp what they really mean. This overwhelming number is the amount of plastic currently floating in the oceans. Every year an additional 4.8 to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans. Plastic waste pollutes shore and coastlines and makes enjoying the beaches and swimming in some areas nearly impossible.

However, even though polluted beaches seem to be the most visible consequence, it is only one of many. All kinds of sea creatures confuse small pieces of plastic for food or entangle in bigger plastic parts. Plastic waste also destroys their natural habitats. The exposure to chemicals in the plastic influences the marine life, but also human health through the food chain. Furthermore, recycling the plastic waste in the ocean is expensive and causes huge amounts of CO2 emissions. Therefore, problems caused by plastic waste in the ocean affect marine life, human health, the economy, and the climate.

Single-use plastic makes up 49% of the marine litter, so the MEPs adopted a plan to ban single-use plastic items by 2021. This includes plastic plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks, and cotton buds. For more information check out our IATE Term of the Week – Marine Litter.

As you can see in the infographic, four out of the top ten single-use plastic items found on shores are plastic food packaging items, like bottles, caps, wrappers, cups, lids, and food containers. These items are not included in the single-use plastic ban. To tackle this problem the EU is funding researchers at the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in France who developed a 100% biodegradable food packaging called EcoBioCap. It keeps food fresh and has no impact on the environment as it is produced with waste from the agri-food industry. The objective is to substitute packaging made from petrochemicals.

If you are interested in what else the EU does regarding pollution and the environment, check out these links for people who hate wasting food, for environmental NGOs, for environmentalists at local level, for green business owners. The EU is also collecting waste from ships in ports and dealing with persistent organic pollutants.


Are you #ReadyToChange ? The seductive power of single use plastics. https://www.bereadytochange.eu/en/. Accessed August 30, 2019.

Kra R. A packaging revolution. investEU – European Commission. https://europa.eu/investeu/projects/packaging-revolution-0_en. Published September 6, 2018. Accessed August 30, 2019.

Plastic in the ocean: the facts, effects and new EU rules: News: European Parliament. Plastic in the ocean: the facts, effects and new EU rules | News | European Parliament. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20181005STO15110/plastic-in-the-ocean-the-facts-effects-and-new-eu-rules. Published October 24, 2018. Accessed August 30, 2019.

Plastic Oceans: MEPs back EU ban on throwaway plastics by 2021: News: European Parliament. Plastic Oceans: MEPs back EU ban on throwaway plastics by 2021 | News | European Parliament. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20181018IPR16524/plastic-oceans-meps-back-eu-ban-on-throwaway-plastics-by-2021. Published October 24, 2018. Accessed August 30, 2019.

Written by Annemarie Menger – Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg) and a student of the Master’s Program in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg. She holds a teacher’s degree in the form of the First German State Examination for Elementary Education, a BA in Cultural Basic Skills and an additional degree in Global Systems and Intercultural Competence from the University of Würzburg.